Lev Lewis reporting from the Toronto International Film Festival
My first day at the festival yielded two opposing ends of the horror spectrum. On one end: Antichrist, the latest piece of controversy from Danish provocateur Lars von Trier; on the other: Jennifer's Body, the horror-comedy written by Diablo Cody. It's not difficult to say which one I prefer although words such as "prefer" or "enjoy" are not words that one should ever use to describe Antichrist.
Antichrist is everything you have heard and then some. I came into my screening moderately prepared for what von Trier had in store for me. I'd seen his previous work, read numerous articles detailing the controversy surrounding the film, thought I knew what I was in for. But, without trying to sound hyperbolic, nothing can prepare you for this. Perhaps, there will be people out there who will find themselves unaffected by the film, but I simply cannot imagine who they would be. Antichrist is the most audacious, disturbing, gut-wrenching, terrifying film I have ever encountered. At this point I'm still having difficulty applying any sort of critical sensibility to a work this powerful. Honestly, I'm unsure if a film has ever affected me quite as much as von Triers' has. Three quarters through I was literally shaking.
I need a bit more than an evening's perspective to really dissect the film, but needless to say Lars von Trier, along with Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg (who give astonishing performances as the grieving couple) have created what will likely be one of the seminal works of our time.
Willem Dafoe watched the whole film with us and then did a Q&A. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from him, but he was extremely suave, intelligent and funny.
Jennifer's Body, Diablo Cody's second foray into film, yields dull results. It's difficult to say whether Jennifer's Body feels inferior to Juno* due to a less able director (Karyn Kusama in the place of Jason Reitman), a lesser cast, or whether it is simply due to a poor script on Cody's part. So while it is certainly true that director Kusama is a) unable to combine horror and comedy in any sort of resonant way, and b) build the mood or tension very much needed for horror, blame must also be attributed to Cody who insufficiently blends her already-dated, stylized pop-culture laden dialogue with 80's camp-horror. Sadly, this is the one distinguishing element of Jennifer's Body and the only aspect that separates it from every horror film of late. Like the rest, scares are derived from characters walking slowly through dark spaces until something jumps out, which is of course complimented by appallingly loud thumps on the soundtrack. As well, the numerous flashbacks, which always begin with the obligatory dissolve to white and the contrast pumped to the max, do little to set Jennifer's Body apart from its modern-day peers.
<-- Seyfried & Fox in blood red heels at the premiere.
The film's Midnight Madness premiere was packed and the audience was eating out of the hands of Cody, Kusama, Fox and even Seyfried. However I can't imagine many people getting worked up about Jennifer's Body outside of the late-night festival atmosphere. Or perhaps I'm giving moviegoers too much credit. It is also possible that people will devour the audience-baiting of Jennifer's Body. For instance, at one point Amanda Seyfried, from out of nowhere and with no motivation, sucker-kicks a nurse who has done nothing to warrant such violence. The nurse flies through the air (accompanied by mind-numbing sound editing) and falls bloody and battered into an array of tables. This lurid act of violence received huge rounds of applause from an apparently blood-thirsty audience. Grade: D+
More fun than the film itself were the proceedings. The whole cast and crew were in attendance and up on the stage were: Karyn Kusama, Megan Fox, Johnny Simmons, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Brody, Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman. The rowdy crowd was quite thrilled at the appearance of Fox, and asked numerous questions about the kiss between her and Seyfried. However, Diablo Cody stole the show announcing that her greatest contribution to cinema has been the words "Stick it in".
*Not that I am, by any means, Juno's biggest fan.
related posts: "Places Willem Dafoe's Ass Has Been" / Jennifer's Body trailer